With a league title at stake, the #3 ranked SCSU Huskies make their first trip to sparkling new Baxter Arena in Omaha to face #12 ranked Omaha in a key NCHC weekend series. The Huskies (13-4-1 conference | 23-6-1 overall) look to at least maintain their co-leadership with North Dakota in the standings in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference. The Mavericks (8-9-1 conference | 18-9-1 overall) need a successful weekend to keep within striking distance of a possible NCHC first-round home playoff series. Currently, Omaha and UMD occupy fourth place in the NCHC standings with 25 points.
Both teams are ranked highly in the Pairwise with SCSU at #2 and Omaha tied at #8.
These games will not be televised this weekend. Both games will be streamed on NCHC.TV HERE
HEAD TO HEAD
These two squads have played each other eight times since the 2014-15 season with the Huskies owning a 5-3-0 edge. An earlier meeting in St. Cloud in early December yielded a split with SCSU winning 4-1 on Friday and Omaha rebounding for a 7-2 route the next evening. SCSU has won four of the past 5 contests and are 13-9-2 all-time vs Omaha and 3-6-1 on the road vs the Mavericks. SCSU has won 5 of the past 6 games.
Omaha is fresh off a home sweep of Western Michigan by scores of 2-1 and 6-3. This was Omaha’s seventh series sweep of the 2015-16 season. They are 10-4-0 at Baxter Arena but have lost four of their last six games on their home rink. The Mavericks did suffer through a tough stretch in January with a 3-6 record. Since January 1 the Mavericks are 5-6-0.
The Huskies split a tough road series at Miami last weekend. After earning a 5-1 win in the series opener they were edged in the rematch by a 3-2 score. SCSU has a road record of 12-3-1 this season (including games at the North Star College Cup). In NCHC play they are 6-1-1 with their only road loss to Miami. The Huskies are 9-3-1 since January 1.
The Mavericks carry with them a formidable offensive attack led by junior forward Jake Guentzel, currently tied for fourth in overall NCHC points with SCSU’s Joey Benik at 22 points. Nationally, Guentzel ranks 11th in points at 11-26-37. Guentzel also leads the current team in points vs SCSU with 13. Teammate, Austin Ortega, is currently 9th in the country in goal-scoring with 19 goals in 27 games. Additionally, he leads the country in game-winning goals with 8. Ortega has five multiple goal games this season. Other contributors to the offense are forwards Justin Parizek ( 8-19-27), Jake Randolph (9-12-21) and Tyler Vesel (6-11-17). Also, of note is the Mavericks have a combined eight shorthanded goals this season.
Defensively, the Mavericks are led by senior Brian Cooper ( 4-9-13 +10 ), sophomore Luc Snuggerud ( 3-11-14 +1) and junior Ian Brady (3-10-13 +4). In goal, first-year player Evan Weninger has been outstanding with a .936 SV % and 2.06 GAA. The play of Weninger is a key component in the Maverick’s 29th ranked defense allowing 2.68 GPG and a penalty kill stopping 82.6% of the opponents opportunities.
The Mavericks offense is ranked 11th nationally in goals per game at 3.21 and lead the country in short-handed goals with 8. The power play lags however at #32 nationally converting 17.65% of their opportunities. Like the Huskies, Omaha spends little time in the penalty box and is ranked 32nd in that category.
ST. CLOUD STATE UNIVERSITY
The Huskies offense continues to score goals at a torrid pace and is ranked #2 nationally in team offense at 4.33 GPG. The power play is ranked #1 in college hockey and is converting 30.3% of it’s opportunities. The Huskies balanced scoring attack includes six players with 10 or more goals and five players scoring a point or more each game. The team points leader is Kalle Kossila (11-26-37 +19) placing him 2nd in the NCHC and 12th nationally in points. Right behind Kossila in points are Joey Benik ( 17-17-34 +27), David Morley (11-22-33 +23), Ethan Prow (6-23-29 +20) and Jimmy Murray (10-19-29 +6). Prow leads the nation in scoring by a defenseman. The senior class has contributed heavily to the teams offense producing 44% of the teams total points.
The stingy defense of the Huskies is anchored by senior Ethan Prow who has also added to the offense with 6 goals and 23 assists and a +20 rating. And, he’s doing this with only 2 penalty minutes all season. He’s backed up by a solid core of young defenseman including sophomore, Nathan Widman (+23), Jimmy Schuldt (+19), Will Borgen (+13) and Jon Lizotte (+12). Junior Niklas Nevalainen has been a key defensive and offensive component to this unit with 20 points in 28 games and a +18 ranking. Goaltender Charlie Lindgren is ranked 16th in the country with a 2.03 GAA and .928 SV %. He leads college hockey in wins with 22. The Huskies are ranked 7th nationally in team defense allowing 2.07 GPG. The penalty kill has been the weak link ranked 49th and allowing the opponent to score on 21.4% of their opportunities. As always, SCSU is one of the least penalized teams in the country currently ranked 57 out of 60 teams.
Despite the strong goaltending by Evan Weninger, the Mavericks are still allowing 2.68 goals per game – 29th in college hockey. And, the power play is underperforming at 17.65% despite all the firepower on the team. It’ll be key for Omaha to eliminate power play opportunities for the #1 ranked power play this weekend if they are to be successful. On the other hand, the Huskies need to be aware of a Omaha penalty kill that has scored eight times shorthanded so far this season. They also need to be aware of Omaha forward Austin Ortega who torched the Huskies for two game winning goals last season and already has eight this season. These teams know each other well and the Huskies are sure to have the 7-2 loss to Omaha in early December in the back of their mind. It’ll be a new experience for the Huskies to play at Baxter Arena and they’ll need to acclimate quickly to the nuances of this brand new rink. Of concern is the slow starts by the Huskies in the last two contests with Miami and they can’t afford to get behind early to a team whose goaltender is allowing only slightly over two goals per game. Omaha needs some conference wins badly and this should be another tough weekend on the road for SCSU.
As always, all the pertinent links for this weekends games can be found HERE
Enjoy the games!